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Is it wise to become self employed with no job experience?

  1. Dec 9, 2014 #1
    I don't know...it must be that I'm too much of a free spirit to work for someone else.

    I'm thinking, after I graduate with my mathematics BS, I would like to get a masters. After that, maybe I'll start my own consulting firm.

    Of course, I will get volunteer/unpaid experience along the way. But what about doing all this without even working in the STEM industry?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2014 #2

    Doug Huffman

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    How would you sell your consultancy services?
  4. Dec 9, 2014 #3
    If you have no experience, how can you consult someone?
  5. Dec 10, 2014 #4


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    In my industry we hire consultants as a last resort when we have a problem our own staff can't figure out. Consultants are typically older, experienced engineers who have very developed skills and networks in a small, specific area (for example we hired a EMI-compliance consultant last year... Lord was he expensive, but worth every penny). The point is if you're fresh out of an MS program you know far less than most of the engineers in any company that would hire you. What value would you add to justify your cost?
  6. Dec 11, 2014 #5
    To be perfectly honest, and to address some of the commentator's concerns, I didn't know too much about consulting when I was writing this post. I just looked it up, and saw that you can be self employed and have a consulting firm. The self employed route just seems to be the perfect fit for me. But I guess I have to work to get there.
  7. Dec 11, 2014 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Just remember that there is a very thin line between self-employed and un-employed.
  8. Dec 11, 2014 #7


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    One would have to publish in a number of journals. Most consultants I know have a PhD, or MS, and have worked in industry in which they developed a reputation.

    A PhD implies original research that is more or less sefl-directed, whereas an MS is directed or guided research, which may more may not be original.

    Bill Gates is someone who started more or less self-employed, but he didn't do it in a vacuum.

    One may have to work as a contract employee/contractor, or otherwise secure a steady job in some existing organization before striking out on one's own.
  9. Dec 12, 2014 #8
    I know some people who started their businesses while working towards their STEM degrees - sometimes the business was related to their degree or a project they were working on as students, in other cases they simply had an idea, an interesting side-project / hobby and/or the right "network".

    Many universities have "startup-centers" or whatever this is called that provide advice with starting a business (even in a not that entrepreneurial country as mine ;-)) or help with meeting investors etc. I am also aware of some successful startups funded by students that were hatched in these "incubators".

    So perhaps you could pick your master's degree program or projects you are working on a student accordingly?

    I started my first business as a freelance IT consultant for small businesses with close to zero experience (or my experience as a materials scientist was not relevant) and it worked quite well though - but these was the pre-dotcom IT hype era.

    Later I followed exactly the approach described by others: Gather experience and build reputation and a network in a narrow niche as an employee first (which worked much better).

    But I believe the important thing is - you typically have some idea first, an idea for a product or for bespoke consulting... perhaps even somebody else suggests to you that some activity of yours has potential to be turned into a business. I feel it does not work that well if your main idea is "to start a business" and then you start searching for a proper business idea.
  10. Dec 12, 2014 #9
    You can become a self-employed web developer without prior employment experience. I did it three years ago. It should be possible in programming in general. This is a very specific field in that (almost) all knowledge and tools you may need are available online and you can get practical experience doing personal or open source projects. If you find a news site made by a certain start-up accelerator named after a concept in lambda calculus, you will find practical advice in a spirit quite different than offered here.

    This is a completely different route than an expert consultant described by the posters above.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  11. Dec 12, 2014 #10
    I usually expect our consultants to have experience and practice in something that our staff do not have and can not attain in a reasonable amount of time. How much is "reasonable?" Well, considering what the consultant knows, and how long it would take to bring someone up to speed on that subject, the question we would ask is whether we would still need the consultant after the work is finished, whether we would ever need to refer to it again, and whether we have a staff member who can do this work.

    So for example, I hire attorneys to handle the occasional legal case that I can not deal with myself. Could I spent my time studying the law and how to work the case? Yes. However, given the nature of the case, I think this is a one-time event. The attorney is handling this better and for less money than I can.

    Likewise, with a mathematician: Does this person know something and have sufficient experience with that something that it is not practical for me to spend time studying it?

    Ask yourself that question. If you can come up with a service that you could provide to people at a reasonable rate that involves the degree and the limited experience you have, then go for it.

    However, I can't imagine many applications where a recent graduate with a degree in mathematics (and no business experience) could actually bring something to the table that I could not get by spending a few hours hitting the books. Remember, I have the advantage that I already know about my application and the outside consultant does not...

    Think long and hard about this. There are plenty of fields where free-lance work is the norm. You don't have to be-your-own-boss right out of college.
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